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Articles of 2006

Joe Orbillo: “Jerry Quarry Saved My Life”

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People who listen to the radio are familiar with Paul Harvey, the God-voiced commentator out of Chicago who likes to introduce a different spin on some factual item or historical event by saying, “You know what the news is. In a minute, you're going to hear … the r-r-r-rest of the story!”

With the indulgence of my talented TSS.com colleague David Avila, I’m going to play Paul Harvey now and give “the rest of the story” regarding the 1966 Jerry Quarry-Joey Orbillo heavyweight fight in Los Angeles, about which David wrote with his usual skill recently.

Jerry Quarry and Joey Orbillo weren’t just two of the most talked-about young heavyweights in America when they met 40 years ago this December 15. They were also firm friends, going back to their days in the Jr. Olympics boxing program, when they both had their first boxing match – not against one-another – at age five.

By the time he turned pro on May 7, 1965, winning a four-round decision over Gene Hamilton, Quarry was a veteran of over 200 amateur fights, and had won the 1965 National Golden Gloves title by knocking out five straight opponents.

Like Quarry, Orbillo had been forcibly introduced to boxing by his father, who happened to look out the window of their house one day and saw Joe getting thumped by another little kid. “If you’re going to fight,” the elder Orbillo said, “you’d better learn how to do it.” Two weeks later, Joe recalls, “I was in the ring with a kid who looked like a grasshopper.” It was his first and last amateur fight. But as David Avila reported, as a youngster Orbillo became known as a prodigy at the Hoover St. Gym, where he regularly sparred with Archie Moore, Amos “Big Train” Lincoln and other well-known pros. He was also a football star in his hometown of Wilmington, playing both sides of the line.

Orbillo was a student at Harbor College when he turned pro on May 28, 1964, winning a four-round decision over Henry Clark (later the California State heavyweight champion and a fringe contender). Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Sr. surprised him before the fight started by introducing him as “Joey” Orbillo (“It said Joe on my robe”) and inventing on the spot the nickname that stuck with Orbillo through his seven-year pro career: “The Harbor Hawk.”

His dimensions were almost sparrow-like compared to other heavyweights. Orbillo was 5’10” tall and barely 190 pounds. Once he gobbled water pills in an effort to get down to the light heavyweight class, but when he reached a very dehydrated179 he gave up and stayed with the big boys.

In his third fight, Orbillo fought an eight-round draw with Manuel Ramos, who four years later wobbled Joe Frazier in their fight for Joe’s heavyweight title with a big left hook. Orbillo found out what that was like in a rematch with Ramos a year after their draw. He survived a Ramos blast in the eighth so hard “I think I’d still be flying if the ropes weren’t there,” knocked the Mexican heavyweight champion down three times and won a 10-round decision.

The 1960s were loaded with excellent young heavyweights, and Orbillo beat several of them. In 1965 he won a decision over Irish Billy Stephan after knocking Stephan down in the eighth round. “I hit him with a right hand so hard he went straight down,” Orbillo recalls. He figured the fight was over, but when he turned around Stephan “was up and smiling. I said, ‘Oh, sh–!’ It turned out to be a war.”

So was his bout with Tony Doyle on March 31, 1966, thanks to a wardrobe disagreement. At the weigh-ins before his fights, Orbillo always liked to be the first one on the scales. The tradition then was that the first one to weigh-in got to choose the color of trunks he’d wear in the ring. (In those days the choices were limited to black or white.) Orbillo got weighed before Doyle and picked white. But Doyle’s manager, Marv Jensen, had already told the commission that Doyle would wear white, and their refusal to budge put Orbillo in black trunks and a blacker mood. After 10 torrid rounds, Orbillo got a split-decision over his taller, 15-pounds heavier foe.

“It’s weird, what can turn your clock,” he says.

Three months later, crafty veteran Eddie Machen handed Orbillo his first loss in 12 fights. During the fight, Machen discombobulated his younger opponent by telling him in the clinches, “Now don’t hurt the old man, Joey!”, and “Take it easy on your elders, Joey!” After winning a split-decision, Machen told Orbillo, “You’re the best I fought in a long time.”

A month later, Jerry Quarry lost his first pro fight to Machen.

On February 21, 1966, Sports Illustrated ran a feature story heralding the “Sudden Rush of New Heavies” recharging public interest in boxing. Quarry and Orbillo got top billing in the piece, which noted the inevitability of a march between Southern California’s top young heavyweights, whose long friendship didn’t prevent one of them from going for the psychological advantage.

“I would knock him out in the fourth round,” Quarry was quoted as saying of Orbillo. “He’s a three round fighter.”

Orbillo was more circumspect. “Quarry is a good fighter,” he said. “But so am I.”

The fact was, though, that Orbillo wasn’t interested in fighting Quarry then, or anybody else in boxing gloves. Right before the Doyle fight, he had been notified to report for induction into the U.S. Army. Now, after completing basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, Orbillo's focus was on the fight he was scheduled to have in the jungles of Vietnam.

Orbillo had volunteered to be a point man in the Infantry’s 199th brigade. Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Jim Murray described what that entailed in a piece about the fighter.

“A point man is a soldier who goes out on a point some 50 to 100 yards ahead of his company so that if he (a) steps on a mine, or (b) gets his throat cut, he will be the only one lost. The others will be forewarned. His life expectancy is symbolized by a decimal point.”

Why would someone volunteer for such a job? Orbillo told Murray, “I figure, look, maybe the guy out on the point in my patrol is married. Or maybe he’s got a girlfriend. Or he’s got something on his mind, so he gets careless. Me, I’m not married, I got no girlfriend. I’m concentrating. Besides, I’m used to dealing with people looking, y’know, to hurt you.”

He fought Quarry the week before he was to ship out for Vietnam.

“I wasn’t going to fight Jerry,” he says. “I just wanted to come home (on leave), have a good time, fool around, and go off to war.”

But Quarry’s co-manager, Johnny Flores, had sent him a letter in which he suggested that Orbillo might want to go for the big fight before he went to Vietnam, in case he didn’t make it back home from the war.

So on December 15, 1966, Orbillo listened to Earl Nightingale motivational tapes in his dressing room at the Olympic Auditorium and then walked to the ring repeating his usual prefight affirmation: “I will survive. I will complete the mission.”

He won the first three rounds, but in the fourth he did a complete somersault on the canvas after Quarry landed a left hook. “I was on all fours and saw (referee) John Thomas showing me five fingers,” Orbillo recalled later. “I thought, ‘Is it the fifth round, or what?’”

Joe got up and fought hard to the final bell, but to this day has no recollection of the rest of the fight, won by Quarry on a unanimous vote of the judges.

The very next thing Orbillo remembers after seeing Thomas holding up those fingers is finding himself in a bowling alley at 2:30 a.m. and being jolted by the loud explosion of bowling pins. He looked around, said “What the hell?!”, and, turning to a friend, asked, “Hey, who won the fight?”

His friend pulled him into a bathroom, turned him toward the mirror and said, “Look at your face and ask me who won.”

Orbillo noted his own swollen features and said, “I guess I lost.”

Twenty-five years after the fight, Jerry Quarry remembered being afraid of killing Orbillo after he put him on the canvas. “I could have knocked him out,” he said, “but there was no way I wanted to do that because we were friends.”

In the last minute of the tenth round, Quarry dropped his hands and danced around the ring like Ali. But he wasn’t showing off. “It was strictly that I didn’t want to hurt him anymore,” he said.

Sportswriters voted Quarry-Orbillo the 1966 “Fight of the Year” in Southern California.

A day later, Orbillo left for Fort Benning, his first stop en route to Saigon and the ultra-dangerous duty that awaited him in Vietnam. But that punch from Quarry that knocked him down also broke both of Orbillo’s eardrums, and instead of being the point man on his unit’s first jungle patrol, he was in the hospital.

That’s why he says that the beating he took from Jerry Quarry “saved my life, in a strange way.” Because the soldier who took Orbillo's place as point man on that first jungle patrol stepped on a land mine and was blown away.

Upon resuming his boxing career, Orbillo won seven bouts. But he dropped a decision to “Big Train” Lincoln, and after Robie Harris unexpectedly stopped him in 1971, the 17-4-1 (9) Orbillo hung them up. “That spark was not there anymore,” he says.

His friendship with Quarry remained constant – “Joe’s still a good buddy of mine,” Jerry said in 1992, “and will be till the day we both drop dead.” Orbillo even briefly dated Quarry’s sister Diana. At the World Boxing Hall of Fame induction weekend in 1993, Orbillo and Quarry even boxed a three-round exhibition. “We almost reenacted our fight,” Orbillo said. “We whacked each other a little bit. I even had a baby headache afterwards.”

When Quarry died in six years later, a devastated Orbillo spoke at the funeral.

The rest of the story has turned out pretty good for The Harbor Hawk. Orbillo was a policeman for a while and then worked as a longshoreman. He also trained heavyweight kickboxing champion Joe Lewis. Now 60, he still works on the San Pedro waterfront, and thanks to regular gym workouts is just a water pill or two away from his old fighting weight.

“My health is good, I got no gripes and I don’t owe nobody nothin’ except the bill collectors,” he says. “I wasn’t a champion or anything, but I’ve had a pretty good life.”

It got even better on October 9, when Orbillo got his own bronze plaque in “The Sportswalk to the Waterfront” in San Pedro, the local version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “Those who saw him fight never forgot him,” they said at the ceremony.

Included in that group is boxing historian Bill Schutte. He lives in Wisconsin now, but grew up in Los Angeles and saw several Orbillo fights. “He was one of my very favorite boxers,” Schutte says. “You always got your money's worth when he was in the ring.”

Paul Harvey himself couldn’t put it any better.

Articles of 2006

Peter/Toney Ii: Peter Has The Brutal Punch

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Samuel Peter claims he has dynamites in my two hands?

Heavyweight contenders Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter and James Lights Out? Toney get it on a second time this Saturday from the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla. (Showtime).

The hard-slugging Peter, unlike Toney, is one of those strong, silent types notorious for letting their fists to the talking one the opening bell sounds, but the Nigeria Nightmare is as confident as ever and determined to turn Lights Out’s lights out for good.

I have got dynamites in my two hands,? said Peter, according the Lagos, Nigeria Vanguard, and I will crush James Toney once and for all. The Toney camp made the mistake of their lives by protesting and seeking a rematch. I am ready to teach him a bitter lesson.?

Sam Peter walked away with the W for Peter/Toney I at the Staples Center in LA last September, but it was by disputed split decision a verdict so disputed, there was even a dispute about the dispute which forced the WBC’s hand into mandating Saturday’s rematch.

Samuel Peter is the biggest thing to hit African boxing since Ghanaian superstar Azumah Nelson rocked the feather and junior welterweight divisions. The President of the Nigeria Boxing Board of Control, Prince Olaide Adeboye, admitted, according to allAfrica.com, We are rooting for Samuel Peter, of course. He is one boy we believe in to bring back the country’s lost glory in professional boxing. I am personally making arrangement to be at the ringside to see him fight Toney again. I was at the first fight in Los Angeles in September.

Peter has the brutal punch, and to me he was the clear winner of the first fight. But the WBC Board of Governors, of which I am a member, voted 21-10 for a rematch. There was nothing those of us Africans on the board could do in the circumstances. But I believe Peter will confirm he is better than Toney and will then go ahead to meet the champion and claim the belt for Nigeria and Africa.?

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Articles of 2006

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings for Asia

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There are claims that boxing is dying. Hogwash. The heavyweight division isn’t the only division in boxing and 2007 promises to be a banner year in boxing; especially for boxers hailing from Asia.

While Asia isn’t Vegas or Atlantic City, it is a region packed of diamonds in the rough; undiscovered gems and potential superstars who wait for their moment in the sun.

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Asia

1) Manny Pacquiao – There’s no way to dispute Pacquiao is the best fighter in Asia, if not all of boxing. He’s exciting, he wins with Je Ne Sais Quois and is definitely “the man” in boxing.

2) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam – Although his competition leaves much to be desired, his longevity and skills are undeniable. He is currently Thailand’s only world champion and is undefeated in ten years. Need I say more?

3) Chris John – A victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, however controversial, shows he belongs at the top of the heap. He easily outpointed Renan Acosta to close out 2006 and should have no trouble defending against Jose Rojas in February. A fight with Pacquiao would not be a good move on his part but a rematch with Marquez would not hurt – especially if he defeats the Mexican again.

4) Hozumi Hasegawa – Hidden away in Japan, Hasegawa is a sharp punching southpaw who put former champion Veeraphol Sahaprom to sleep. He recently bested Genaro Garcia and his herky-jerky style will give fits to any one who steps in the ring with him.

5) Masomori Tokuyama – Tokuyama has never shied away from a good fight and although he only fought once in 2006 (UD12 Jose Navarro), he ledger shows wins over Katsushige Kawashima (twice), Gerry Penalosa (twice) and In Jin Chi (twice). A fight with Hozumi Hasegawa is a distinct possibility in 2007.

6) Nobuo Nashiro – With only seven fights under his belt he took on WBA champion Martin Castillo – and defeated him. Although he’s only fought a total of nine fights, nearly all have been against quality opposition. A victory in a rematch with Castillo would cement his claim as the king of the 115-pound division.

7) Yukata Niida – This light-hitting minimumweight defended his title twice in 2006, winning a technical decision against unbeaten Eriberto Gejon (Tech Win 10) and the other on points over Ronald Barrera (W 12). Scheduled to meet Katsunari Takayama early next year – the best has yet to come for this WBA belt holder.

8) In Jin Chi – Won back the title he lost to Takashi Koshimoto in January from Rudolfo Lopez. While there’s little uncertainty to his skills, at thirty-three, 2007 may provide some insight as to just how much he has left.

9) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai –Sor Nonthachai is an exciting, top-shelf fighter with an iron chin. Has no trouble making mincemeat of mid-level opposition and deserves a title shot in 2007. Time is running out.

10) Rey Bautista – He’s young, relatively inexperienced in big-time boxing, but will continue to shine in 2007. One of the better prospects in boxing, he should snag a title in 2007.

Asian Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine

Pound for Pound:

Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #2

Jr. Lightweight

Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #1
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9

Featherweight

Chris John (Indonesia) #1
In Jin Chi (Korea) #3
Takashi Koshimoto (Japan) #5
Hioyuki Enoki (Japan) #7

Jr. Featherweight

Somsak Sithchatchawal (Thailand) #4

Bantamweight

Hozumi Hasegawa (Japan) #2
Veeraphol Sahaprom (Japan) #3
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin (Thailand) #6
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Thailand) #10

Jr. Bantamweight

Nobuo Nashiro (Japan) #1
Katsushige Kawashima (Japan) #7
Pramuansak Phosuwan (Thailand) #10

Flyweight

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Thailand) #1
Takefumi Sakata (Japan) #7
Daisuke Naito (Japan) #10

Jr. Flyweight

Koki Kameda (Japan) #1

Minimumweight

Yukata Naiida (Japan) #2
Eagle Kyowa (Japan/Thai) #4
Katsunari Takayama (Japan) #5
Rodel Mayol (Philippines) #7

Boxing in Thailand

There’s no shortage of boxers in Thailand. With a huge pool of Muay Thai fighters to draw from and several talented amateur boxing prospects turning pro after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Thailand seems destined to remain a boxing powerhouse in Asia.

The country is known for having tough, determined and disciplined fighters who give their all whenever the step in to the ring. However, consistently losing while fighting abroad and padding their records with no-hopers has done nothing to enhance their reputation.

Whether because of a lack of marketability, a lack of funds or their unwillingness to travel abroad, the vast majority of boxers from Thailand remain a mystery to fans in the west. If anything though, the boxing scene involving Thai fighters will be active. In fact, it’s one of the most active in the world; since 2000, the number of fights has nearly doubled in the country.

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand – August 2006

1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
2) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym
3) Somsak Sithchatchawal
4) Wandee Singwancha
5) Sirimongkol Singwancha
6) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai
7) Veeraphol Sahaprom
8) Pramuansak Phosuwan
9) Terdsak Jandaeng
10) Oleydong Sithamerchai

Current Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand

1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Flyweight) – Definitely the top dog in Thailand

2) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai (Super Lightweight) – He’s a seasoned fighter who has proven himself in the big-time. He’s one Thai who can fight outside of Asia. He has an abundance of skills and one-punch power. His overall ability and ease in dispatching anyone other than championship caliber get him the runners-up spot.

3) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Super Bantamweight) – After losing to Vladimir Sidorenko he’s bounced back. He’s young, he can punch, but the former interim champion needs to prove himself against a name fighter.

4) Somsak Sithchatchawal (Super Bantamweight) – Was his win over Monshipour a fluke or was Celestino Caballero just that good? Did Sithchatchawal catch Monshipour at the right time and can he rebound from the devastating loss? The jury is still out.

5) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.

5) Sirimongkol Singwancha (Super Lightweight) – Get this guy a fight. He’s better than Jose Armando Santa Cruz and would have beat up Inada had the fight taken place. He’ll fight anyone but his biggest obstacle is staying motivated fighting tomato cans in Thailand. Like many Thais, he needs a fight against a name opponent.
6) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.

7) Pramuansak Phosuwan (Super Flyweight) – A genuine tough guy. Always calm and focused no matter how heated the battle. But at thirty-eight, he’ll be in trouble should he fight one of the division’s elite.
8) Veeraphol Sahaprom (Bantamweight) – Will be lucky to get another crack at the title. Although he has a puncher’s chance of winning a belt, that’s about all he has left at this point. A third shot at Hasegawa is unlikely.

9) Oleydong Sithamerchai (Minimumweight) – He’s fought better than the usual opponents faced by Thais at his level and he moves up one spot with the departure of Terdsak Jandaeng. He lacks the punch and is in the wrong division to become a superstar. He’ll need to defeat a name opponent to convince me.

10) Saenghiran Lookbanyai / Napapol Kittisakchokchai (Super Bantamweight) – These two square-off in early March, supposedly to see who deserves a shot at Israel Vasquez. Kittisakchokchai has the edge in experience but some feel Lookbanyai has the edge in heart and is the favorite.

Neither has defeated a top twenty fighter and yet are ranked number one and two respectively in the WBC’s world.

In Kittisakchokchoi’s lone shot at the big-time, he was TKO’d in 10 by Oscar Larios. His dreadful performance against Larios and lack of quality opposition leads me to believe Saenghiran might have more of a shot at beating him than some suspect. Regardless, neither of them lasts longer than six rounds with Israel Vasquez.

Honorable Mention: Wethya Sakmuangklang, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Devid Lookmahanak, Nethra Sasiprapa, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Pornsawan Kratingdaenggym

Thai Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam: #1 Flyweight
Pramuansak Phosuwan: #10 Jr. Bantamweight
Veeraphol Sahaprom: #3 Bantamweight
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin: #6 Bantamweight
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym: #10 Bantamweight
Somsak Sithchatchawal: #3 Jr. Featherweight
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9 Lightweight

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Articles of 2006

Iceman Stops Tito Ortiz Win Streak

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LAS VEGAS—UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck “Iceman” Liddell’s fists proved too much for Huntington Beach’s Tito Ortiz who was stopped in the third round before a sold out crowd at the MGM Garden Arena on Saturday.

The punching machine Liddell (20-3, 13 KOs) repeated his victory in UFC 66 over the much-improved grappler Ortiz who has improved his punching and blocking. Ortiz was trying to avenge his loss of April 2004.

Despite all the new weapons displayed by Ortiz it wasn’t enough as Liddell pummeled the former champion and retained his title with a technical knockout at 3:59 of the third round. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bout.

“This was the most satisfying victory of my career,” said Liddell, 36, of Santa Barbara. “Tito came back real tough.”

Ortiz (15-5, 8 KOs), a former wrestler, worked on his boxing technique knowing he would need it against the former boxer Liddell. But Liddell’s experience allowed him to find the right moment to pounce on Ortiz.

“I had him hurt, I just kept throwing punches,” said Liddell who also knocked down Ortiz in the first round with a left hook.

Ortiz was gracious in defeat.

“Chuck is the best fighter Pound for Pound in the (mixed martial arts) world,” said Ortiz, 31, who suffered a gash on the side of his left eye from a punch. “I’m disgusted by myself. I let my fans down.”

Other bouts

Underdog Keith Jardine (12-3-1) knocked out Forrest Griffin (13-4) at 4:41 of the first round in their light heavyweight showdown. A right uppercut followed by a left hook wobbled Griffin who was sent to the floor by a barrage of punches. On the ground Jardine landed right after right until referee John McCarthy stopped the fight for a technical knockout.

“I couldn’t believe he was hurt,” said Jardine about Griffin who is known for his resiliency. “I was so nervous coming into this fight, but now I know I belong here.”

Canada’s Jason McDonald (18-7) choked out Chris Leben (15-3) in a middleweight bout that was up for grabs. Though Leben seemed to control the fight with stunning left hands, once the fight went to the ground McDonald managed a chokehold at 4:03 of the second round. Referee Steve Mazagatti saw Leben was unconscious and stopped the fight.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (12-5) caught Brazil’s Mario Cruz (2-2) with a sneak right hand while both were tangled on the ground. Then the Belarusian pummeled Cruz until referee Herb Dean stopped the fight at 3:15 of the first round.

Third season winner of the Ultimate Fighter television reality season Michael Bisping (12-0) of Great Britain won by technical knockout over Eric Shafer (9-2-2) at 4:29 of the first round. A knee knocked Shafer groggy then Bisping knocked him to the ground and pounded him. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bludgeoning.

Thiago Alves (16-4) caught Peru’s Tony De Souza (15-5) with a knee as he attempted to dive for his legs in a welterweight contest. After that it was pretty much over as Alves pummeled De Souza at 1:10 of the second round forcing referee John McCarthy to halt the bout.

Gabriel Gonzago (7-1) proved too strong for Carmelo Marrero (6-1) in a heavyweight bout. At 3:22 of the first round Gonzago of Massachusetts manipulated his way into arm bar forcing Pennsylvania’s Marrero to tap out.

Japan’s Yushin Okami (19-3) pounded Georgia’s Rory Singer (11-6) into submission at 4:03 of the third round of a middleweight bout. Okami seemed the more-rounded fighter with effective kicks to the head and more accurate punching.

Christian Wellisch (8-2) jumped to a quick start with an accurate left hook that rattled Australia’s Anthony Perosh (5-3) in a heavyweight bout. During the first round it seemed the Sacramento fighter might end the fight but the Aussie hung tough. Wellisch won by unanimous decision.

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